In this episode John asks Gregg to clarify the terms “truth claims” and “truth values,” mentioned in the notes for Episode 5: When Your One Star Experience is Five Stars for Someone Else. This was in response to Gregg wondering what truth value people are attributing to the Bible’s truth claims, in the context of many Amazon reviewers considering Not A Fan to be a transformative book.
John wonders how this works if, as some believe, the Christian Bible is an “instruction manual for life.” Gregg offers a different view, contending instead that the Bible conveys true things about God, ourselves, and our world. However it’s chief goal is to put us in right relationship with God, through the person of Jesus.
John shares a story about a friend talking with Jehovah’s Witnesses who come to the door where the Bible is referred to as justification for their beliefs. John’s friend invites the JW’s to come back with answers to his questions on the condition that they are backed by something other than the Bible (which he doesn’t hold to as an authoritative source).
Gregg resonates with this because, in addition to making global truth claims (that the God of the Bible is the only divine entity), the Bible also makes very personal truth claims (that God knows me and loves me better than I know and love myself). And while we understand personal truth claims by reading about them in the Bible, we believe them only through experiencing them.
Returning to Not a Fan by Kyle Idleman (in the context of many Amazon reviewers considering the book transformative), if a reader credits the book with improving their life, Gregg wants to know more specifics. For instance, it’s important to understand the person’s starting point and what’s actually changed or what they’ve “given up” in their life (and what impact or value the person placed on this). Only then could one assess why that person would accept Not a Fan‘s presentation of certain biblical truth claims (with which we broadly disagree) and judge those claims as having real truth value.
In closing, Gregg notes the possibility that what the reader judges to be a real, lasting improvement based on “following Jesus” (as advocated in Not a Fan) might well be a partial (relative to a poor starting place) or short term improvement (because the full implications take time to unfold). And importantly, this is where an inter-disciplinary approach benefits Christian understanding and practice: findings in psychology, sociology, philosophy, and other disciplines are essential to promoting better theological and exegetical understandings.